In my master’s thesis, I examine three of Rebecca Harding Davis’s writings published by The Atlantic Monthly from 1860 to 1862. Davis begins with questioning capitalist claims of building a middle class in “Life in the Iron Mills.” In less than two years, the censure of Davis’s first work softens in a more merciful tone in her first novel Margret Howth. By the time Davis published the short story “David Gaunt” in 1862, her message of tolerance becomes more overtly political as it questions the necessity of the Civil War and foreshadows the trials of Reconstruction. The sole character type that escapes harsh reproach in these stories manifests in the plain female who is not merely tolerant but without prejudice regardless of race, class, gender, or politics on the basis of attempting to follow the teachings of Jesus. Followers of Jesus, Davis posits, can practice social justice without turning into zealots or Pharisees.
I presented a version of the third chapter February 22, 2013 at the Tenth Biennial Conference of the Constance Fenimore Woolson Society that met jointly with the Rebecca Harding Davis Society. Alas, I have yet to submit any of it to a journal. That’s one more thing on the list.
Any interested scholars should contact me!